Arsene Wenger has confirmed the injury crisis engulfing Arsenal is slightly better than previously thought - but Per Mertesacker is still set for four months on the side-lines and is Gabriel expected to be out for up to eight weeks.
The Frenchman is hoping to complete a deal to sign centre-back Shkodran Mustafi from Valencia in the coming days but said he “cannot tell” journalists any more on the topic until there is an agreement in place between the two parties.
Wenger is faced with the prospect of playing young duo Calum Chambers and Rob Holding in defence for the Premier League opener against Liverpool on Sunday.
“Per Mertesacker is out for four months and Gabriel six to eight weeks,” the 66-year-old said. “It's a bit better than expected because he doesn't need surgery. He ruptured his ankle ligament. At the start we thought it could be four months.”
Quizzed on whether Holding, a £2m signing from relegated League One outfit Bolton Wanderers this summer, is ready to step into the breach, Wenger said he is positive on the matter.
“I believe he has played in the Championship so that is a good experience, to deal with one level higher,” added the former Monaco manager.
The crisis comes at unwelcome time for the Gunners but Wenger is believed to be close to securing a deal to sign Mustafi from La Liga side Valencia, although a fee is yet to be agreed.
Speaking to German newspaper Spox, Ali Bulut, the player’s agent, said: “It now just remains for the teams to come to an agreement over the fee.”
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